Anis Amri, the man who had driven a lorry through a crowded Berlin market on Monday, killing twelve people and injuring scores more, was shot dead by Italian police in Milan after an altercation yesterday. There are many unpleasant elements of this week’s continental episode, but one that might have a lasting effect involves the fact that Amri travelled through France before getting caught in northern Italy. He was able to do this because of the Schengen Agreement, an agreement which has meant since March 1995 that a large swathe of western Europe has de facto no borders.
Schengen was already in trouble before this all happened due to the Syrian refugee crisis, but it is now looking very grim for the agreement after the Berlin-Milan moment. Populists have jumped all over this, as expected.
“This escapade in at least two or three countries is symptomatic of the total security catastrophe that is the Schengen agreement,” said Marine Le Pen. “I reiterate my pledge to give back France full control of its sovereignty, its national borders and to put an end to the consequences of the Schengen agreement.”
Farage wasn’t about to miss the moment either.
“If the man shot in Milan is the Berlin killer, then the Schengen Area is proven to be a risk to public safety. It must go,” the eternal leader of UKIP tweeted.
The problem for Schengen is that it now seems like the utopian product of a more innocent era in Europe. It chimed with the mood of the 1990s, when history was “over” and large scale crises such as millions of migrants moving through the continent seemed unthinkable.
The problem for the EU in regards to Schengen is what to do about it. While scrapping it might help to save the Union from being devoured by populist politics, to do so would demonstrate a project that is visibly going in reverse – something which might perversely help populism on the continent even more.
Like all things in relation to the European Union, much depends on what happens to France in 2017. If France leave Schengen then others will certainly follow. If enough of them do so, the agreement effectively becomes null and void.
I recall immediately after the events of September 11th, 2001, a common mantra throughout the West was “we can’t let the terrorists win”. In other words, let us stay strong and continue to live our lifestyles in an open, liberal manner. But these were empty words. The terrorists do change things, like it or not, and Anis Amri – a young Tunisian criminal – could change the destiny of European politics, all through one act of terror.
Paul Sanderson says
Without getting into whether Shengen is a good idea too much, scrapping it because a terrorist or a criminal might have crossed two borders is the epitome of how not to respond surely ?
Surely the last thing we should do in response to a terrorist attack is to radically change our every day lives and philosophy of existence? The whole intention of terrorism is to cause over-reaction. so that people’s lives are disrupted, people become fearful. and start to resent innocent people. Over-reaction, ineffective measures and hatred feed radicalisation and violence on all sides. That is the stock in trade of this activity.
If perpetrators are determined enough they can get through borders, smuggled in vehicles or with fake ID’s etc. or at least try to. Success in doing that is obvious from times before Shengen and in other parts of the world.
A review should be made on these events, precisely what happened, and what improvements can be made by responsible knowledgeable authorities.
Far from speaking responsibly about such events and helping the situation people such as Nigel Farage and Marine le Pen and some of our media are stoking fear and trouble for their own political ends.
The comments after 9/11 about saying string and not letting the terrorist win were right. Appropriate steps should have been taken but look where the wars which ensued and the war on terror has taken us.
To suggest we disrupt things to this extent because of the acts of one, or a tiny number of people’s activities would suggest capitulation and a victory for the perpetrators. Your final comments about the possibility of a young Tunisian criminal changing the destiny of Europe sum it up. We must resist that happening.
Only an island mentality could suggest that closed borders is viable. It has always been very easy to cross land borders and the volume of traffic means that only lip service to patrolled borders on main roads is possible. On minor roads, footpaths and open countryside short of resurrecting the iron curtain and more across Europe it is an impossibility.
Closed borders are great for criminals and terrorists, because they are easily evaded and offer an escape, but an onerous and expensive impediment for law abiding people.
As for the Tunisian, it is said that he was stopped by a ‘routine patrol’ – well pull the other one. I have never been stopped in this way, I do not think I know anyone who has. In all likelihood security agents/police were on to him, but do not want to let on how. Clearly, with all of the Schengen area to search, somehow they were looking in the right place. Do you really believe it was pure chance?
p.s. I agree with everything Paul Sanderson wrote.